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Essential classic rock Christmas albums

Holiday music, classic rock style


Moody Blues - 'December'

The Moody Blues' orchestral backup is well suited to the sounds of the season. Songs range from traditional ("White Christmas") to original ("Don't Need a Reindeer") to a cover of John Lennon / Yoko Ono's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)".

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Peter Cetera - 'You Just Gotta Love Christmas'

Peter Cetera 'You Just Gotta Love Christmas'

After leaving Chicago in 1985, Peter Cetera (one of the band's founding members) quickly found success as a solo artist. You Just Gotta Love Christmas featured several Cetera-penned songs in amongst traditional holiday tunes. Cetera's daughter, Claire provides some of the vocals and his daughter, Senna was responsible for some of the album art.

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REO Speedwagon - 'Not So Silent Night'

Sony Music

The songs are traditional and, for the most part, so are the arrangements (which isn't surprising, given REO Speedwagon's history of power ballads and orchestral accompaniment.) After 42 years and two dozen albums (with non-traditional titles like You Can Tune A Piano But You Can't Tuna Fish and The Earth, A Small Man, His Dog and A Chicken) the band released its first Christmas album in 2009. The songs are familiar, but the band imprints them with their own style.

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Steve Lukather - 'SantaMental'

Steve Lukather gives new meaning to the concept of Christmas music for strings on SantaMental. This 10-track compilation also features Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Steve Vai, and Edgar Winter lending their rock guitar virtuosity -- and on some tracks, their voices -- to traditional Christmas carols.

Steve Lukather talks about SantaMental

The Ventures - 'Christmas Joy'

Christmas on a surf board? Well, not really, but done with the The Ventures' signature slide guitars, prominent percussion, and lots of reverb. Arrangements of traditional carols are pretty faithful to the originals, with a liberal amount of '60s surf rock flavoring.

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Trans-Siberian Orchestra - 'Christmas Eve and Other Stories'

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve and Other Stories
Lava / Atlantic

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is best experienced in live concert performance, but a good sound system is the next-best way to enjoy TSO's BIG orchestral rock sound. Although not exclusively a Christmas music band, most of their touring and recording center on holiday music. My favorite of their three holiday albums is their first, Christmas Eve and Other Stories, released in 1996 and subsequently a 2x Platinum seller.

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